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McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II (U. K. Version)

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The United Kingdom operated the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II as one of its principal combat aircraft from the 1960s to the early 1990s. The UK was the first export customer for the Phantom, which was ordered in the context of political and economic difficulties around British designs for the roles that it eventually undertook. The Phantom was procured to serve in both the Fleet Air Arm and Royal Air Force in several roles including air defence, close air support, low-level strike and tactical reconnaissance.

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The United Kingdom operated the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II as one of its principal combat aircraft from the 1960s to the early 1990s. The UK was the first export customer for the Phantom, which was ordered in the context of political and economic difficulties around British designs for the roles that it eventually undertook. The Phantom was procured to serve in both the Fleet Air Arm and Royal Air Force in several roles including air defence, close air support, low-level strike and tactical reconnaissance.

Although assembled in the United States, the UK's Phantoms were a special batch built separately and containing a significant amount of British technology as a means of easing the pressure on the domestic aerospace industry in the wake of major project cancellations. Two variants were initially built for the UK: the F-4K variant was designed from the outset as an air defence interceptor to be operated by the Fleet Air Arm from the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers; the F-4M version was procured for the RAF to serve in the tactical strike and reconnaissance roles. In the mid-1980s, a third Phantom variant was obtained when a quantity of second-hand F-4J aircraft were purchased to augment the UK's air defences following the Falklands War.

Following the cancellation of both the TSR-2 and P.1154 programmes, the RAF were still left with a requirement to replace both the Canberra and Hunter in the long-range strike, close air support and reconnaissance roles. This resulted in the procurement of two aircraft, the General Dynamics F-111K, intended for the long-range interdiction roles carried out by the Canberra, and the F-4M Phantom, which would be used in the close air support role undertaken by the Hunter. The F-111K was cancelled within a year of being ordered, but the order for 150 Phantoms went ahead alongside the Phantom order for the Royal Navy; the final 32 units of the RAF order were eventually cancelled. The RAF Phantom, given the designation FGR.2, was broadly similar to the naval version, with some minor variations in terms of engines, avionics and structure, which related to its use as a land-based, rather than carrier-based aircraft.

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